Themes in Wuthering Heights: with Quotes from the Novel & Analysis

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By examing some important quotes from the novel, you’ll start to see common themes running through the text.

Quote: He got onto the bed, and wrenched open the lattice, bursting, as he pulled at it, into an uncontrollable passion of tears. “Come in! come in!” he sobbed. “Cathy, do come. Oh, do–once more! Oh! my heart’s darling! hear me this time–Catherine, at last!” (45).

Theme 1: The encroachment of the past on the present

Theme 2: The effects of obsessive love

Analysis: Whether or not Catherine’s ghost appears to Lockwood the night he stays at Wuthering Heights or if it’s just a nightmare is ambiguous. It is apparent, however, that Heathcliff senses that Catherine’s ghost appears from time to time. This becomes evident as the novel progresses. Despite obtaining wealth and physical stature, Heathcliff remains haunted by the past and his longing for Catherine. It’s a haunting he requests and one that causes a frenzied desire for revenge on all whom he suspects of not allowing his and Catherine’s love to gain its fullness while Catherine lived.

Quote: I really thought him not vindictive–I was deceived, completely, as you will hear (54).

Theme: The ruinous effects of revenge on both the receiver and the giver

Analysis: Nelly begins her tale by foreshadowing upcoming events. She gives reference to Heathcliff’s appetite for revenge, which dominates the novel. She also hints at her own lack of good judgment, something from which she suffers throughout the tale.

The Effects of Unbridled Emotion

Quote: “I’m trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back. I don’t care how long I wait, if I can only do it, at last. I hope he will not die before I do!…I only wish I knew the best way! Let me alone, and I’ll plan it out: while I’m thinking of that, I don’t feel pain.” (65).

Theme: The ruinous effects of revenge on both the receiver and the giver

Analysis: Nelly gives insight to the depths of Heathcliff’s antipathy toward Hindley and foreshadows his impending doom. Hindley’s ruin does not, however, give Heathcliff happiness or satisfaction. In fact, his vengeful acts make him only more miserable and evil.

Quote: I was very sad for Hindley’s sake; he had room in his heart for only two idols–his wife and himself–he doted on both, and adored one, and I couldn’t conceive how he would bear the loss (73).

Theme: The effects of obsessive love

Analysis: Most consider Heathcliff the obsessive lover, but Hindley has much in common with his nemesis. Hindley never recovers from his wife’s death, becoming a drunk and a gambler. It is this loss that allows Heathcliff to gain his revenge.

Quote: At fifteen she was the queen of the country-side; she had no peer: and she did turn out a haughty, headstrong creature! I own I did not like her (75).

Theme: The effects of jealousy

Analysis: Nelly Dean’s narration is extremely critical of Catherine Earnshaw, and this passage explains why. It is important to remember that Nelly and Catherine are nearly the same age, and it’s quite possible Nelly is jealous of Catherine’s popularity, therefore skewing the narration. It is also jealousy that causes Hindley to initially hate Heathcliff.


  • Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins. 1992.

This post is part of the series: Wuthering Heights Study Guide

Tired of strangling puppies on your literature tests. Rise to new heights with the Wuthering Heights study guide.

  1. Wuthering Heights Chapter Summaries
  2. An Analysis of Wuthering Heights Characters
  3. Wuthering Heights Quotes with Analysis
  4. Understanding Symbolism in Wuthering Heights